Pickett pair favored in WVBC undercard stakes
Hypothesis and Gerald Almodovar won the Henry Mercer Memorial Stakes at Charles Town Races. Photo by Coady Photography.
Familiar names figure to play prominent roles on Saturday’s West Virginia Breeders Classics card, but one trainer who’s been a bit under-the-radar in recent years has a shot to have as big a day as any.
Trainer Crystal Pickett will saddle only two runners Saturday, but both are favored. Hypothesis is the 4-5 choice to capture the $75,000 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial for two-year-olds in the opener, and Dr. Feelgood is the slight 2-1 favorite in the West Virginia Dash For Cash, which has attracted an overflow field of 14.
“Both of them have been doing really good these last two weeks,” Pickett said. “Hypothesis won first time out then ran into a really tough group down at Colonial Downs and the rider lost his irons early in the race, and he ran well just to get fourth. He looked really good winning [the Henry Mercer Stakes] here last month and I think he’ll love going two turns. Dr. Feelgood was away for a while and came back winning two 4 1/2-furlong races, so we’re going to keep him sprinting in the Dash. You know what they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
Speaking of juveniles, the speedy Twirling Owen, fresh off her handy score in the Rachel’s Turn Stakes here last month, will seek to give trainer Anthony Farrior his first WVBC triumph when she headlines the West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition BC for two-year-old fillies. Coach Rube, Boundtobe Good and Candyforacause, all of which were bred by James W. Casey, will look for initial stakes success in this spot. Coach Rube rallied from last early to finish third as the odds-on choice in the Rachel’s Turn and seeks a hint of redemption on Saturday night.
Among the bevy of recognizable names highlighting a card topped by the $300,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic and $175,000 Cavada is Parisian Diva. Fourth in the Grade 3, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks in her previous outing, she has been supplemented into the $75,000 West Virginia Tourism Office Breeders Classics for state-bred three-year-old fillies and is the 4-5 morning line choice. A sophomore daughter of Freedom Child trained by Stacey Viands for owner-breeder Melinda Golden, Parisian Diva has already won five of eight starts this year and earned nearly $145,000 and could give Viands his firsr WVBC winner.
“She got bumped around pretty good in the first eighth of a mile in the Oaks, but she came out of it okay,” Viands said. “She had a nice half-mile work in 47 1/5 the other day, and she’s doing really good. We had to supplement again, but she’s definitely paid her way. I thought she ran a tremendous race in the Oaks considering all the early trouble. We thought about waiting to run in the Maryland Million, but we would have had to run against older there.”
Parisian Diva has already won a pair of stakes for state-bred sophomore fillies, the Its Binn Too Long in April and more recently the Sylvia Bishop Memorial. In between she was second in the Alma North Stakes at Laurel Park behind the speedy Please Flatter Me. She has drawn post nine for this event and gets regular pilot J.D. Acosta back in the irons.
“We’re just hoping for a clean break and clean trip and that she runs her race,” Viands said. “She’s been doing well all year in the state-bred stakes and our goal was to get champion West Virginia-bred three-year-old filly. She came out of the Oaks okay, and she’s coming into this race as good as I could have hoped.”
Trainer Jeff Runco will send out three sophomore fillies looking to upset Parisian Diva: Ocean Lilly (12-1), Amelia Bedelia (8-1), and She Figures (10-1). Ocean Lilly has performed well this season and last fall Amelia Bedelia finished second in the West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition BC for two-year-old fillies, with Parisian Diva third in that event.
“All three of my fillies are coming into the race doing good, but Stacey’s filly is going to be tough to beat,” Runco said. “Ocean Lilly has really done well this year, and Amelia Bedelia has come back okay. We’ll need some luck to beat Stacey’s filly. If she runs her race, I don’t know if anyone can beat her.”
As is typically the case on West Virginia Breeders Classics night, Runco will be very busy throughout the card. In addition to saddling three runners in the West Virginia Tourism Office, two more in the Classic and two others in the Cavada, he will have budding local star Penguin Power in the Onion Juice, T Rex Express seeking to defend her title in the Roger Ramey Distaff, and Aaron’s Tap looking for redemption in the West Virginia Dash For Cash. Penguin Power notched his first stakes score when he upset Runnin’toluvya in the Frank Gall Memorial on the Charles Town Oaks undercard and is the 3-5 morning line favorite for the Onion Juice.
“Penguin Power is really doing good,” Runco said of the Gall winner, who heads into the Onion Juice riding a five-race streak and sporting six wins in seven starts this year for owner David Raim. “The seven furlongs seems perfect for him. I couldn’t see going in the Classic and trying nine furlongs for the first time and trying to beat Tim’s horse again.”
While Penguin Power seeks his first WVBC score, T Rex Express will look to defend her title in the finale, the nine-furlong Roger Ramey Distaff for state-bred fillies and mares. She capped the card by winning that event last year then came right back to win the My Sister Pearl Stakes for a second straight year. She had been second in the Cavade in 2017 and second in the West Virginia Division of Tourism Stakes for three-year-old fillies one year earlier.
“She’s one of those mares that always seems to run her race,” Runco said of T Rex Express, who owns a 14-10-2 slate and over $375,000 banked from 34 career tries. “She’s coming into it good. She definitely prefers to go three turns up here. I think she’s only got beat once up here going a mile and an eighth.”
Coincidentally, in the Onion Juice trainers Runco and Tim Grams will reverse their Classic roles. While Runco trainees will be looking to play the spoiler in the Classic and the West Virginia Tourism, it will be Grams who will gun for the upset in the Onion Juice, Distaff, West Virginia Lottery and West Virginia Tourism Office. Grams will send out C.R. Case’s Legacy in the three-year-old filly stakes, the unbeaten Loving Touch in the three-year-old event, Ihearuknkockin in the Onion Juice and Rock N Gold in the Distaff. Loving Touch is the full-brother to Runnin’toluvya.
“Ihearuknockin is coming into the Onion Juice really good, but I don’t know if he can beat Jeff’s horse,” Grams said. “That horse is just really good right now. Loving Touch is doing well. I really pushed him that first month when he won his first three starts then I backed off of him a little bit. I wasn’t even sure he would have the earnings to get in this race. C.R. Case’s Legacy is doing good, but it’s going to be tough to beat Stacey’s filly. We have tried her a couple of times without much luck, so we’ll need some luck to beat on Saturday night.”
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